Around this time of year I travel to Disney World to meet up with a bunch of female friends from all over the country that I have met via the Internet. None of whom are axe murderers. :-) This year my friend Lauri decided that she'd like to join me - last year when we drove cross-country she arrived at the end of the weekend and didn't get to spend any time at Disney World with me. She spent a couple of days at Disney with Lee and me back in December 2001, but otherwise she hadn't been there since the Studios opened back in 1989.
This time we *flew* both ways cross-country instead of driving, though. :-)
Just a reminder of who we are - Lauri (whose real name is also Laura, but we always called her Lauri so we could tell each other apart), and me, Laura. We've been friends since we met in chorus class in 9th grade. Over the years we've been on a number of trips together - including Yosemite and Hawaii, and of course our big cross-country driving trip last year.
Lauri lives in Los Angeles, and I live in San Diego, so we arranged to meet at the Orlando airport - our flight times were pretty close. Though Lauri was able to get a *non-stop* flight both ways, and I had to change planes. Oh well.
Thursday, February 6 - Fly
Lee had been in D.C. for 10 days, and was returning at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday - but I was leaving in the *morning*, so I had to figure out how to get myself to the airport - I opted for the sedan service again. It's *very* dark at 5:20 in the morning!!!
I was pleasantly surprised to arrive at the airport and NOT have to go through a huge security line - when I did this same trip a year ago it took over 30 minutes to get through security! Of course that meant I was checked in and through security with an hour and 20 minutes until my flight. So I wandered up and down the terminal several times to get some exercise before I sat for several hours. Though I was a little worried when the flight crew showed up and seemed relieved that they had arrived at the gate - evidently they got lost in the airport? Didn't exactly inspire confidence...
My flights were actually pretty nice, because I got to fly first class! Woo hoo! I'd booked the tickets using my frequent flyer miles and when I did I discovered Delta has two award levels - SkySavers, which has lots of restricted dates, and SkyChoice, which is more open, but double the miles. The SkySavers flights were yukky, but it turned out that there was a first class option, too, and with that they had the flights I wanted at the times I wanted! So I could fly first class with a SkySavers ticket for 40,000 miles, or coach with a SkyChoice ticket for 50,000 miles. Decisions, decisions. :-) I thought about it real hard for all of a couple of seconds, and booked the first class ticket. :-)
Of course now I'm spoiled and I never want to fly coach again...all of my flights were packed, and it was SO nice to be up in first class where there was more room, and someone coming around periodically to ask me if there was anything else I wanted...that's the life!!!
We arrived in Orlando a few minutes early and I went down to the baggage claim area to meet Lauri (I had only carry-ons). Her flight had actually arrived half an hour early, so she'd been waiting for me to get in.
After we picked up the rental car we were off - it was about 30 minutes from when I arrived until we were on the road in the car, so that was pretty efficient.
This trip we were staying in a one bedroom unit at the Boardwalk Villas. I supposedly had a "Preferred View" and had requested a Boardwalk view, so I was pretty disappointed when we were put on the ground floor, all the way at the end of a hallway, with a not-so-lovely view of the Boardwalk Community Center. I guess *technically* it was a waterview room, because we had (very) obscured views of the pool and the canal, but it was by far the *worst* view I've ever had at the Boardwalk.
Lauri had some work to do updating her web site - http://www.moviecitynews.com - so I called Pam, one of my internet axe murderer...I mean internet friends, and found out that several of them were over in the Matsu-No-Ma Lounge (that's Japanese for "drink more beer") over in Epcot. That's just a quick walk, so I headed over and hung out with them while everyone arrived and waited to be seated for their dinner at Teppanyaki. Lauri didn't have a park pass, so we didn't join them that evening. Sounds like they had fun, though. :-)
|Disney's Once Upon A Toy|
It was close to 11:00 by the time we got back to the Boardwalk...I talked Lauri into going down to Seashore Sweets for ice cream. She had frozen yogurt and I had a chocolate milkshake - not quite as good as Beaches and Cream, but it was a lot more convenient! There were hardly any people out on the Boardwalk, despite it being such a nice night. But I guess it was still mid-week.
When we got back to the room I called Lee, and he had made it home
safely. Lauri and I decided to go to Epcot the next day, and went to
bed around 12:30 - which is still pretty early for those of us from the
Friday, February 7 - Epcot, Boma
|Lauri makes an important phone call|
When I'd asked Lauri before the trip what she wanted to do she didn't really know, so I suggested that I could just show her all of *my* favorites, and do the "Laura's Favorites" Tour. She thought that sounded like a fine idea - "sure to be a favorite of Lauras everywhere". :-) So I suppose it was only appropriate that we start in Epcot, which is Laura's favorite park. :-)
After we got Fastpasses for Test Track we sent Internet postcards from the IBM exhibit in Innoventions and then rode the new Journey into Imagination ride. Ok, not so new *now*, since it's been open for over six months, but still new to us. It's better than the last incarnation, but not as charming and whimsical as the original.
I was disappointed that the Epcot fountain was undergoing rehab - one of my favorite things to do is sit on the terrace outside the Fountainview Cafe and watch the fountain. Oh well, there were a number of "Laura's Favorites" that we missed on this trip, and that was one of them.
After Lauri did some shopping at MouseGear and we checked out
Mission:Space, we rode Test Track. Even though we had Fastpasses, I
think it would have been a lot faster if we'd taken the Singles line.
|Epcot's China Pavilion|
In China we saw "Si Xian" - the woman who plays the Chinese harp before the "Wonders of China" Circlevision movie. I think it's very relaxing to sit and listen to that for a while. And the "Wonders of China" is my favorite Circlevision movie. I'm glad we saw it, because I understand that China will be showing a new Circlevision movie in starting in May.
through Germany and Italy and Morocco and
had lunch at Tangierine Cafe - my favorite counter service restaurant.
On the wall inside the American Adventure is an American flag that was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center - it's on loan to them for a while.
We managed to drag ourselves away from American Vybe to enjoy some of my other Epcot Favorites, like the World Showcase Players in the U.K. and France. The World Showcase Players are back in France again, performing Cyranose de Bergerac - I hadn't seen that in a couple of years. It's not quite as inspired as King Arthur and the Holy Grail...and I wish they would bring back Romeo and Edna.
By then it was 5:00 or so and we wandered back to the Villa for a while before driving over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we had dinner at Boma. They had a couple of things that were new to me - the fried yams were *really* good! They had a little bit of cinnamon sugar on them. They also had the tomato stew that I like so much - though I can't understand why they have it over with the meats instead of with the soups.
After dinner we went outside to look at the savannah and see if we could see any animals...we eventually saw an eland and some zebras, but it was a chilly evening and I guess most of the animals were hanging out someplace warmer! :-)
We drove to the Beach Club Villas, where the Internet group was having a wine and cheese party in one of the Villas. Even if I hadn't known the room number I think I would have found it - we could hear the noise from the hallway. :-) The party was supposed to start about 9:30, and we arrived about 10:00, but I think they had gotten started early. :-)
We had a good time, and arranged a time to meet up with Pam (my Evil Twin) the next morning and said goodnight.
Saturday, February 8 - Animal Kingdom, Studios, Magic Kingdom
Bright and early the next morning we picked Pam and Mary up at the Beach Club and drove to Animal Kingdom. We arrived just after park opening and got Fastpasses for the Safari, and then went to see the training session of the Pocahontas show. Generally there are two shows a day where instead of doing the usual show the trainers bring out several animals who need some work in front of an audience. Some of them are new animals who are learning the routines, and sometimes it's an animal that's been in the show but hasn't been performing exactly right and needs some remedial training.
One of the trainers comes out and talks about what they are doing, and how they train the animals - they give positive reinforcement if the animal does what they ask, and if it doesn't, there's no reward - just a time out. I find the training sessions much more interesting than the real show - the animals usually misbehave a little, which can be pretty funny. This time we saw a porcupine, a skunk and two raccoons - and they actually all did what they were supposed to do. Though the one raccoon was a blur going offstage as soon as he got the "ok" signal. :-)
And then it was time for...mmmmm...CINNAMON ROLLS!!!! Tusker House has
THE best cinnamon rolls, especially when they are still warm. We found
some of the rest of the group - Cathy, Andrea, LauraS, and Kenny, and went
on the safari.
As you may know, Animal Kingdom has a special tour called the "Backstage Safari". Well...we got something a little different this day...the Back*side* Safari. Or the "Animal Ass Tour", as LauraS put it. :-) The animals did not seem very interested in putting their best side forward. :-) And it wasn't just on the Safari - it was a conspiracy throughout the park.
So, to begin:
A giraffe on the Safari offered this hindquarters view.
This elephant evidently wasn't clued into the program so we only got the pachyderm periphery instead of the full pachyderm posterior. :-)
And what else would you expect - Loin of Lion!
The furry fanny of a colobus monkey.
A silverback gorilla gave us a direct view of his derriere.
The "Backside Tour" wouldn't be complete without a ride on the train that allows you to see the backstage animal barns - and also the backside of a Saturn.
A little bit of rhino rump.
What's this? Some tapir tush?
As you know, cats are rather contrary, so instead of a rear view, the tiger actually posed for a picture.
The Siamang family - baby shows a little baby butt as he climbs up the rope. Interesting that mom is a blond, daddy is dark and baby is gray.
Pink flamingo flank.
No, it's not a hairball with legs...just the south end of a north-bound capybara (a R.O.U.S. for all you Princess Bride fans.)
The very colorful postern of peacock.
A tale like this is not complete without a tail end - tail end of lemur, that is.
And we finish our "Backside Tour" with this...the back side of water! :-)
And now "back" to our story. :-)
The "Animal Ass" Tour took us to Pangani Forest, Rafiki's Planet Watch (though all we did was take the train there and back, and didn't walk to the building at all), the Maharajah Jungle Trek, and Discovery Island (which is that they call the area around the base of the Tree of Life).
|LauraS, Pam and Lauri|
After that we rode Primeval Whirl - I know a lot of people don't care for the Dinoland area and the way it looks like a tacky tourist trap, but I think it's fun - and Lauri and I *saw* some places like that on our trip cross-country last year, only they weren't nearly as clever (nor as clean!). And Primeval Whirl is GREAT fun - I really enjoy all the bright colors and glitz, and getting spun around while on a roller coaster is just *fun*. And over in Dinoland is my favorite dinosaur.
We met everyone at Tusker House for lunch - it was a VERY chilly day
(only about mid-50s), and a warm lunch (I had the rotisserie chicken,
mashed potatoes and vegetables) tasted really good. We did a little
more of the "Backside Tour" with LauraS and Pam (yes, we had *three*
different Lauras together...I don't know if Pam was considering changing
her name or not!), and went to the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see
my favorite sign. And the tigers too, of
course! :-) After that Lauri and I left and went over to the Studios.
|Four For A Dollar|
It was my day to be picked on by little girls, I guess, because the one behind me kept kicking me. I still managed to enjoy the show anyway - I hadn't seen Beauty and the Beast in a while because it isn't one of my favorites, but it was better than I remembered. (Lee and I have been known to come in just to watch Four for a Dollar, and then leave.)
The line for Tower of Terror was posted as 35 minutes so we were happy
to have Fastpasses and breezed right into the Library, but about the
time we got into the basement, the left side of the ride went down, so
we had to get merged into the right hand line, and we must have been in
there for 15-20 minutes. Lauri really enjoys this ride, too, and I like
the new drop sequences. I don't quite know what to expect yet. :-)
I'd wanted to take Lauri to see "Voyage of the Little Mermaid" but it was down for rehab...but our timing was perfect and we were among the last 40 people they let in for the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" show. For a change I got the Fastest Finger question right, though it was all by guessing - I really *didn't* know what order the four Madonna songs had been released in. :-) Neither did the 11 year old who got in the hot seat - but randomly punching buttons has its advantages. :-)
He was having a hard time, and missed the 4000 point question. I'd been number 10 on the board at the 1000 point level, and when they started showing the board after he missed I thought I'd dropped off the board completely...but no, I was actually number one!!! So I got in the hot seat for the very first time. I took Tigger down there with me for moral support. The host asked me what I liked best about Tigger, and I had the presence of mind to say that he was "bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!" :-)
|What could have been...if not for that pesky 32,000 point question|
That was the end of the show (and it was the last show of the day). They took me backstage and I signed my life away and got my 1000 point hat and pins, and they told me I couldn't be in the hot seat again until March 10. Not a problem, since I won't be back until at least March 30. :-)
It was a fun experience, and I'll do better next time!!! Though if I'm with Lee I'm sure it'll be him that gets in the hot seat rather than me - he's almost always on the board when we see the show, though he hasn't gotten in the hot seat yet. :-)
We went into the "One Man's Dream" exhibit but just did a quick tour through the displays since the movie was about to start, and that's the best part. It's SO well done, especially hearing almost everything in Walt Disney's own words.
Our plan was still to get over to the Magic Kingdom to see the SpectroMagic parade and the fireworks...and it was almost 6:30 and the parade started at 7:00! We drove back to the Boardwalk and Lauri went to the bus stop while I ran back to the room to drop off my pins and hat...fortunately the MK bus *didn't* come while I was gone, but arrived a couple of minutes after I got to the bus stop.
By the time we arrived in the Magic Kingdom the SpectroMagic parade had started, and we weren't able to get across Main Street. We watched the rest of it from the fire station, and then my plan was to cut through the shops and go up and watch it in Frontierland. Lauri and I started to walk though the shops after the parade...I turned around and she was behind me, and then I turned around again and couldn't find her!!! I guess it's just not a "Laura" trip if we don't lose each other at least once - last year it was in the Orlando airport. :-) I waited for a while and then went under the train station to the phones and called her on her cell phone. It turned out we'd gone into the first shop through separate doors - she thought I'd gotten way ahead of her and took off, and then I didn't see her.
Anyway...that meant we missed seeing the entire parade, but I'd seen it before, and Lauri was able to see the Chernabog open his wings, which was the part I'd wanted her to see, so we didn't worry about it.
Our other objective for the evening was to ride Buzz Lightyear - Gloria had told us that it was going down for rehab starting the next day. (I couldn't figure out why it was going down on a *Sunday*, which is a weekend day, unless it's because the new weekly schedules start on Sunday and they were trying to save on printing costs.)
After we finished dinner it was time to use our Buzz Fastpasses - I can see why Buzz is going down for rehab - most of the cars are looking pretty shabby. Lauri really enjoyed this, and by the time we got off, the end of the standby line was now somewhere *inside* the building, so we did it again. :-) Lauri had the same idea that many of us have - that they should do something similar with "it's a small world". ;-) I think a lot of us would pay *extra* for that!!!
We decided not to stay for the second parade, but took the bus back to the
Sunday, February 9 - Magic Kingdom, Epcot
We started our day back at the Magic Kingdom - over the years I've found that Sunday morning is a good time to be there. It was another cool day, AND it was sprinkling a little bit. We started off with "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", which is my *other* favorite at the Magic Kingdom - though I think it should be renamed "The Many Adventures of Tigger and Pooh", or something like that.
|Andrea, Cathy, Di, Laura, Pam, LauraS|
Lauri and I headed off to do the Tomorrowland Transportation Authority (aka The People Mover) and the Hall of Presidents. We were surprised to find Mickey and Pluto posing for photos inside the lobby of the Hall of Presidents - it did seem to bring some more people in there, though. We were trying to figure out who the narrator is - we thought it sounded like Avery Brooks, but not quite...I had to look it up on the Internet to find out that it is J.D. Hall. We had to laugh a little bit at Bush's speech when he talks about America "hearing voices". Great...just the impression that we want foreign visitors going home with.
Lincoln's speech is still the best part - and something I had never
noticed before is that while he is being introduced (before he stands
up) he turns to glance at the notes in his hand - and he glances at them
at least one other time during the speech. Very realistic. It's also
fun to watch how some of the other presidents fidget during the show -
those with their legs crossed bounce their foot, and things like that.
|Lauri, Laura, and LauraS|
By the time we finished the rain was coming down in earnest. Lauri headed back to our room because she had some work to do, and LauraS, Pam, and I headed out for what has become the traditional Sunday afternoon Commando Tour. (Normally DebK joins us, but she wasn't able to make it for the weekend this year - it just wasn't the same without her!)
The idea this year was to do "favorites" at the various parks...though
we had to skip Pam's Peter Pan favorite because the line was ginormous.
And my favorite, Buzz Lightyear, was closed for rehab, as I already
|Laura, LauraS, and Pam|
So we took the monorail to Epcot instead. From there we sent our missing commando an internet postcard - though before we took the picture we're all in the booth stripping off three layers of clothing so it would LOOK like it's warm and sunny - I don't think we fooled anyone, though. :-)
We hit LauraS's favorite
Future World pavilion,
The Living Seas (and appropriately, it rained...and
it rained...and it rained...) where we saw a manatee that had gotten
frostbite. How does a manatee get frostbite, anyways? Also did
Journey into Imagination, which isn't
Pam's favorite, but stood in for it
that day, since the "Living with the Land" attraction had a long line.
|The Voices of Liberty|
After Voices of Liberty we went over to France to see "Impressions de
France" - I think that was Pam's request. Due to the rain, some
things that we would have done as "favorites", like World Showcase
Players, seemed to be cancelled. By then the rain had stopped,
Monday, February 10 - Studios, Epcot, Tea, Home
Our last day...after we packed we walked over to the Studios to ride Tower of Terror again as well as Rock'n'Roller Coaster. We ran into Andrea, Di, Pam, and LauraS as they were on their way to the Tower - we were off to Starring Rolls for breakfast. I never ride those two rides *after* breakfast. :-) We tried the cinnamon rolls - they aren't nearly as good as the ones at Tusker House.
|Miyuki performing at the Japan Pavilion|
The rain had slowed down and we stopped under cover in Japan to see Miyuki, the candy artist. She's really incredible - she takes blobs of corn syrup candy and turns them into all kinds of different animals - even colors and paints them with food coloring. It really is amazing what she can do - a few snips and pulls and she has her candy blob shaped into something recognizable and she refines it from there - I particularly like seeing her do bird's wings. She made a green dragon for Lauri, and we also saw her make a hummingbird, unicorn, penguin, and panda bear.
By then the rain had stopped - on our way out of the park we saw DebW,
Linda, Nancy and Mary. Those internet women were everywhere! :-)
|Laura and Lauri at the Grand Floridian Tea|
We saw several people who were in there by themselves - enjoying their tea and reading a book or newspaper. And then there were the three older ladies who came in - all dressed in purple and wearing red hats. :-) When I described them to DebK later she told me they were probably members of the "Red Hat Society" - I think she was right. Lauri and I aspire to be like that when we grow up. :-) If I ever do. ;-)
After tea it was time to go to the airport...of course by then the weather had cleared up and it was sunny and beautiful - and I understand that it was close to 80 the next day. Maybe I'll have nice weather for my NEXT trip in March...though with the luck (or lack thereof) I've had with weather recently, it'll probably be hot and miserable again.
My flight home was overbooked and they were offering people an overnight stay in Orlando plus $400 in flight coupons to fly out the next morning. I was again very happy to be in first class. :-)
The Lauras' Excellent Cross-Country Adventure
Tigger's yet-to-be-named Trip Report - Coming Someday...
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